| King of the Hills
Brooks Koepka, one of the biggest hitters in the game, brought the longest U.S. Open venue to it's knees. Starting Sunday one stroke behind 54hole leader Brian Harman, the former Florida State All-American fired a 5-under-par 67 - his third sub-70 round o
Brooks Koepka, one of the biggest hitters in the game, brought the longest U.S. Open venue to it's knees.
A KOEPKA-HARMAN DUEL
Koepka revealed he received a motivational phone call from the world No. 1, Dustin Johnson, the night before he became a first-time major winner.
“Dustin called me on Saturday night and told me to take one shot at a time, just to stay patient,” Koepka said. “It was a case of ‘just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to win the thing. Just don’t get ahead of yourself’.
“Because we played a Tuesday practice round together, he watched me play. I thought I played pretty solid on Tuesday. He said he was pulling for me and just hang in there. I felt like that has been the thing lately with me, why I haven’t really played that well - I’ve been trying to win so badly. I felt like I underachieved. And the more patient that I can become the more times I’ll put myself in this situation,” added Koepka.
Koepka’s 72-hole total of 16-under 272 was four strokes shy of the championship record registered by Rory McIlroy in 2011 at par-71 Congressional Country Club, and it tied the Northern Irishman’s mark in relation to par. He also became the seventh consecutive firsttime major champion and the third American in a row to win the U.S. Open, the first time that’s happened since 2000 when Tiger Woods followed Payne Stewart and Lee Janzen.
Through nine holes, it appeared the championship would come down to a KoepkaHarman duel, and when the former registered his first three-putt of the championship on No. 10 for a bogey 5, the two dead-locked at 13 under. Things could have unraveled for Koepka two holes later, but he converted a 9-foot par putt. That set the stage for his birdie barrage, including a 17-footer on the par-3 16th to reach 16 under.
When Harman made a bogey 5 on the par-4 12th and a rare three-putt on 13th, any drama was all but removed. “I don’t believe in moral victories,” said Harman, the 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur champion who was vying to become the first left-handed golfer to hoist the U.S. Open Trophy. “I had an opportunity today, and I didn’t get it done. But at the same time, I don’t feel as though I lost a golf tournament. I think Brooks went out and won the tournament.”
Matsuyama made a late run with five birdies over his final eight holes to get into the clubhouse at 12 under, but Koepka never wavered, producing a pair of pars on 17 and 18 to seal the win.
THE MOST FEARLESS PLAYER EMERGED
It was all part of a record-setting week at Erin Hills, the first course to host a U.S. Open in Wisconsin. Even though the wind blew the hardest it had all
championship - 15 to 25 mph - 18 under-par scores were posted on Sunday, bringing the total to 140, which surpassed the 124 registered in 1990 at Medinah Country Club.
Koepka’s four-stroke victory is the largest in the last nine majors, dating to 2015 U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth’s four-stroke win in the 2015 Masters.
Even more astonishing was the seven golfers who finished double digits under par, with Tommy Fleetwood (11-under 277) finishing fourth, and Bill Haas, 18-hole leader Rickie Fowler and U.S. Open rookie Xander Schauffele tying for fifth at 10-under 278. Those relationto-par numbers would have won all but two U.S. Opens: Woods’ 15-stroke romp in 2000 at Pebble Beach Golf Links and McIlroy’s eightstroke victory in 2011.
A week that began with no Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, marking the first time since 1994 at least one of the game’s leading men wasn’t in the field at a major. It’s also a weekend without world No. 1, 2 and 3 - Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlory and Jason Day, respectively - for the first time in a major.
For a Major championship that seemed to lack an identity, initially as a result of the perceived missing star power, Rickie Fowler initially filled the star void. He took the first-round lead with
a 65 and started the final round just two strokes back, but he never managed to close the gap and finished with an even-par 72 to tie for fifth.
The Erin Hills Open was saved by Sunday’s breeze. After three days of record scoring that included Justin Thomas’ 9-under 63 - the lowest score in relation to par ever at the U.S. Open - balance and a bite were returned to the golf universe on Day 4.
Sunday’s winds finally put the fear back in the golf, where it should be at the U.S. Open, and as is always the case the most fearless player emerged.
Koepka completed his transition from a calm and confident player with plenty of potential to a bona fide star who didn’t blink when the game’s most demanding test finally arrived on Day 4. Beyond that calm exterior and limitless power, Koepka didn’t come to the PGA Tour with untold fanfare or enjoy immediate and unqualified success.
Instead, he forged a much different path, starting out on the European Challenge Tour, the Continent’s version of the second-tier circuit, before moving onto the European Tour. He played tournaments in far-flung places like Kazakhstan and had to have extra pages put into his passport at one point because of his extensive travels. And most importantly he learned his trade.
“I kept telling people last year after the Ryder Cup when Brooks figures out how good he is, he’s going to be a world-beater,” said Brandt Snedeker, who tied for ninth (8-under 280).
Perhaps all he needed was the right venue with generous fairways, just like Erin Hills that fit Koepka’s game.
Brooks Koepka hits his second shot on the 7th during the final round
Brian Harman reacts to a missed birdie putt on the 16th during the third round
Tommy Fleetwood hits his second shot on the 8th during the final round. He finished
fourth at 11 under
Hideki Matsuyama made a late run with five birdies over his final eight holes to finish at 12-under tied-second
Rickie Fowler took the first-round lead with a 65. But he could only finish with an even-par 72 to tie for fifth
Justin Thomas hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the third round.
His 9-under 63 set the U.S. Open lowest score in relation to par record
Brooks Koepka poses with the trophy after winning
the 2017 U.S. Open
A view of the flag on the 18th featuring Arnold
Palmer at Erin Hills